And on the seventh day, they danced … again.
There’s little time for rest if you’re a “Dancing With the Stars” contestant. Not when there’s a tango, samba or paso doble to learn.
For Jason Taylor, what it takes to successfully compete on the show has proved to be a much bigger challenge than his day job, defensive end with the Miami Dolphins.
“Football is something I’ve always done, so it’s easy and more natural,” he says. “I’ve never cha-cha’d in my life and I’ve got a week to make it look like I know what I’m doing. That’s tough.”
While each of the dance pros and their celebrity partners have unique schedules, here’s a look at seven days in the life of a “Dancing With the Stars” contestant:
Once the season is under way, the new week starts right after the live results show on Tuesday night. That’s when the professional dancers are given the music for the following week. They get right to work on the choreography because there’s no time to waste — each contestant has only two days to learn the new routine.
“Wednesdays and Thursdays are normally the most stressful days of the week,” says dance pro Cheryl Burke, who is working with Cristian de la Fuente this season. “Your celebrity gets frustrated because they have to learn a whole new dance, song, new way of moving and technique. It’s really hard for them to pick it up.”
Some of that frustration comes out in the clips taped at the practice sessions that are later played during the live show. In one recent segment, Priscilla Presley showed her aggravation at not learning a routine as quickly as she would have liked and said, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Practice sessions are generally six to eight hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but Taylor and his partner, Edyta Sliwinska, sometimes go longer. And if a particularly difficult routine calls for it — or when there are two dances to learn — working from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., with an afternoon break, isn’t unheard of. If Sliwinska believes Taylor is taking too long for lunch, she’ll send him a text message.
“She’s the toughest coach I’ve been around,” says Taylor, who insists the comment is no exaggeration. One of Taylor’s former coaches with the Dolphins was the hard-nosed Jimmy Johnson.
Away from the practices, there are wardrobe fittings, interviews with the media and all of the regular demands on each contestant’s time.
The dance is performed from beginning to end so the director can map out the best camera angles. It’s another six- to eight-hour day.
It’s about repetition, with the dance pairs doing their routines over and over again to iron out all of the rough edges. As “DWTS” workdays go, it’s a fairly easy one — about four to six hours.
Spent at the studio where the show is produced. There’s time for still more practice, and then there is a full run-through of the dance as the crew does camera blocking. Many weeks, this is the first chance for the dancers to perform the new routine on the floor they’ll be working in front of a live TV audience.
The day of the 90-minute performance show, call time is generally 8 or 9 a.m. The dancers do their routines with the orchestra for the first time, and later in the day there’s a full dress rehearsal. The live broadcast for the East Coast starts at 5 p.m. PT from CBS Television Studios in Hollywood.
Tuesday’s live results show starts at 6 p.m.. and after that wraps an hour later — assuming you’ve survived to dance another day — the process starts all over again.
All of the remaining dancers have been at it since four weeks before the season premiere, and the seven-day workweeks become a grind.
“About halfway through the season, we all start to get a little tired, but then it doesn’t get any easier because you have to learn two dances a week,” Burke says. “To push through it, you have to take a deep breath and make sure you get as much sleep as possible when you can.”
Survive until the end of the season and then comes the payoff: the “Dancing With the Stars” mirror ball trophy.